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Don't forget low-temp fundamentals when retrofitting high-tech coldstores.

Don't Forget Low-Temp Fundamentals When Retrofitting High-Tech Coldstores

All things considered, the cost to maintain frozen food at an extra-cold -- 28 [degrees] C is not as high as one might think. And the added quality control benefits are incalculable.

Efficient food distribution and cold storage systems today call for changes not only designed to handle increased turnover, but also to address date-marking and the adoption of "just-in-time" delivery schemes.

A serious challenge in the near future will involve taking existing coldstores that were constructed and built with corner posts for block-stocking, and converting them into racked chambers. Precise, mechanized and automatic systems for storage as well as large marshalling areas are necessary for proper utilization of transport fleets. Terminals must be kept at a controlled temperature to avoid thermal abuse and temperature variations.

The most important change in the cold storage and distribution industry is seen in information processing and administration. On the loading bay, bar codes and computers have already taken over a part of the data flow -- and more changes are to come. The storage location is taken care of at the point of production where the food processor's computer interfaces with that of the coldstore to produce identification cards unique for each pallet. Not only will the number of the chamber be pre-assigned, but the actual spot within the warehouse where the pallet should be placed will be exactly spelled out.

Greater turnover and necessary changes of storage and distribution environments will, of course, be more expensive to operate than status quo systems. Energy costs, for example, increase rapidly with turnover

It is clearly illustrated that greater turnover means higher energy costs. As this will beg the question of whether or not an especially low temperature really is necessary, the difference between storages at -- 28 [degrees] C and -- 18 [degrees] C is given as well. Studying the increased cost from strictly an energy viewpoint may explain why some prefer to maintain increased storage temperatures. However, total costs are what counts. And higher storage temperatures might just induce other cost elements.

The importance of low temperature in storage and distribution cannot be overestimated. Food legislation in some countries, and recommendations in others, have always called for -- 18 [degrees] C or lower levels. European coldstores are normally operated at much lower points, and in North America food processors are asking for lower temperatures to safeguard quality. This means an increased cost as compared to -- 18 [degrees] C storage.

From an energy perspective, the difference between -- 18 [degrees] C and -- 28 [degrees] C represents some 25% of the total electricity bill. Energy accounts, however, for only about 10% of the total operating expense, which means an operational increase of just 2% when the temperature drops by 10 [degrees] C. Taking all relevant factors into consideration, the difference in operating costs between the two temperatures is below 4%.

Comparing the investment cost for a coldstore built for -- 18 [degrees] C with one designated for -- 28 [degrees] C, one finds small differences as can be seen in the adjacent table.

The calculation is carried out for a 62,000-cubic-meter, four-chamber coldstore equipped with mobile racking and a storage capacity of 15,000 pallets. The site area has been set to 19,000 square meters, and it has been assumed that the cost of land is 200,000 [pounds] per acre. It is a fully-serviced site, and no piling was necessary for the construction. As can be seen from the figures, the difference is only in the order of 3-4%, and the impact on the actual cost is very small.

So, it is evident that cost savings in storage are not to be found by increasing warehouse temperatures. On the contrary, storage and handling temperatures are most important in assuring high quality of both frozen and chilled foods. Temperatures not cold enough, or in fluctuation, will create serious changes which could undermine product integrity.

Quality, fast, exact, JIT, DPP and costs are all key words in tomorrow's food distribution business. High-quality -- not only with reference to food products, but also in regard to service -- is a must in today's food supply systems.

The changes taking place necessarily call for investments and increased operating costs in the cold storage and distribution industry. And efficient integration between storage and transport is most important, as is good communication all along the cold chain.

In discussing increased costs, it is important to place the storage and distribution systems as well as the following processes into correct perspective. In the adjacent table the total costs involved in processing, distribution and retailing frozens in Sweden are given. It may surprise some that freezing, storage and transport to the wholesaler add up to no more than 2% of the total.

The just-in-time philosophy which now pervades the food supply system from raw material procurement to retail sale is changing the role of the cold storage industry. These days the typical operation requires a smaller part to be used for bulk storage, while a greater percentage of space is devoted to in-and-out product movement. This is particularly true for coldstores handling chilled products. As a matter of fact, they no longer tend to be stores, but rather terminals for receiving different products in the mornings and delivering consolidated loads in the evenings.

The modern refrigerated warehouse operator has become part of a very sophisticated distribution system. To meet the new demands he has to invest in rebuilding his old facilities or in constructing new stores. The warehouseman must also devote more resources to provide EDP services.

Especially valid for those in the food distribution business is the following proverb: The bitterness of poor quality still remains long after the sweetness of low cost is gone. [Tabular Data Omitted]
COPYRIGHT 1990 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Warehousing World
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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